Ireland: Workers occupy Waterford crystal factory

February 7, 2009

Angry workers at the Waterford Wedgewood's crystal factory in Kilbarry, Ireland have begun an occupation of the factory, following the announcement on January 30 that the factory would be closed.

The closure means that 480 of the 800 workers employed at the factory will immediately lose their jobs. More than 200 workers are involved in the occupation.

The company went into receivership on January 5, following five consecutive years of losses.

The factory had remained open as administrators looked for potential buyers. On January 30 the receiver, David Carson, announced that the money borrowed to keep the factory operating had run out and production would cease.

But according to Sinn Fein workers' rights spokesperson Arthur Morgan, Carson had made a commitment at a meeting with potential investors on January 29 — just one day earlier — that the factory would not be closed while there were people interested in investing.

Emergency talks were organised involving officials from Unite, the union which organises 90% of the Waterford workforce, and David Begg, from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The union officials met with Carson and Dermot McCarthy, the Secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach [Irish Prime Minister].

Prior to the talks, UNITE regional organiser Walter Cullen told the media the only way the stand-off would end would be if the receiver reversed the decision to shut down manufacturing.

More than 2000 people attended a rally on January 31 to support the occupying workers.

Union officials addressed the rally and called on the government to intervene in the dispute and allow the company to continue trading for at least a week while potential buyers are spoken with again.

Sinn Fein has called on the government to stop the receivers from closing the factory.

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